Once upon a time …. or to be more precise in 2017 the “Through our Hands” textile art group had a great idea: The Portrait Shuffle.
One could sign up for a kit including a canvas, create a portrait of any kind (person, animal, flower, …) in any way (draw, paint, collage, patchwork, photograph, …) and return it to the organizers. All the portraits were exhibited at the prestigious Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August and they all were all shown on a blog created for this special event. After the show, the portraits were shuffled and randomly sent back to the participants meaning you got a portrait back, not your own but somebody else’s. So, you got back an original work of art by an artist from somewhere in the world. You could be the lucky receiver of a portrait/quilt by Alicia Merrett, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Jette Clover, Linda Barlow, Sandra Meech or any other celebrity of the quilting world. An exciting idea and I wanted to be a part of it.
I was thinking about my portrait for a long time. It should be a kind of quilt not a drawing and it should be in the bright colors that I love so much. I was thinking about a Picasso-like face or a Venetian mask – but no idea was really that appealing. And then I looked down where my dog Felix was happily snoring away under my desk. How about a portrait of Felix? In bright colors?
I looked through my photos of Felix and found a suitable one.
I traced the outline and divided the forms, the lines mimicking the fall of his fur. I fused colorful fabric to the background trying to leave very small gaps between the fabrics. In these gaps I hand-embroidered black lines. (From pre-school on, this was always my favorite way of coloring – black outlines filled with the brightest colors.) I glued batting to the canvas to get the quilty feeling and mounted the portrait. It looked fabulous and exactly like Felix.
And then it happened.
Just for the records: I am not a sentimental or romantic person. I don’t collect things from my childhood, not even things from my daughter’s early years. I have no problem when my husband forgets our wedding anniversary or if somebody doesn’t call me for my birthday. When my grandmother died, I didn’t keep anything from her stuff as a memento and when my father died, I only took over his BMW because it’s a really nice car and I’m an only child and my mother couldn’t use it.
The same goes for my quilts. If I make a quilt for someone, I don’t care what they use it for. Fine if they wrap the baby in it (as intended), equally fine if the dog sleeps on it. Really! I couldn’t understand my friend who was heart-broken when a quilt she gave to a friend was nailed to the wall (with really large nails, producing holes the size of a penny).
And then that all changed.
I was not able to put the portrait in an envelope and send it to England. It was impossible for me to send my own dog away. What if the portrait would have gone to someone who doesn’t like dogs, to someone who would throw it away? For the first time in 30 years of quilting I understood the meaning of “I put all my heart and soul into it”.
For several days I tried to convince myself to send the quilt but I couldn’t bring me to do it. As much as I would have liked to own a quilt by Alicia Merrett or Annabel Rainbow, Felix stayed at home. I really would have loved to be part of that exhibition – next time I will make a portrait of an unknown horse.